Life After Picnik? Trust Me There Are More Photo Editing Options

It is the 19th of April and to those of us who don’t use Photoshop, it can only mean one thing. The day photo editing site Picnik closes.

Ok so we are positively told that we won’t loose our precious Picnik all together, oh no much worse it will be merging with Google+. Oh yes another way to try and force us into using it. For us non-Blogger bloggers Google just took away our Google Friend Connect and moved the Blogger search feature to the main search option whilst hiding the ‘other’ blog operator search’s way in the back of beyond. Creating a bias and enlarging the divide between blog operators. Rather than just improve the Blogger service, you know so it actually rivals WordPress would have been too hard work, instead they are preferring bully-boy tactics.┬á Don’t get me wrong I used Blogger for two years and think it is a really easy system to use, however it doesn’t allow you the same customisation you can get with WordPress. I felt I had no choice but to switch. I use Google mail (no I don’t like all the new features they keep adding, like the pointless ‘important’ tags) and Google search engine, I don’t hate Google, but I do hate feeling like I am being held to ransom and having my choices taken away. Already having had the Google+ forced onto me, I have tried it out and well I can’t see anything there I really need, but I really LOVE Picnik so thought I would give it a try via Google+.

How to use Picnik in Google+

1. Log into / Create Google+ account

2. Once on your Profile, go to the Camera icon to open / upload photo’s

3. Hover the cursor over the photo you want to work on, a series of icons will appear, click ‘pencil’

4. This opens up the Picnik suite you will be familiar with

Now this is all pretty easy but you will be disappointed. It doesn’t have many of the features you will be used to, it is stripped back and basic. Perhaps more features will be made available in the future, who knows?

I do have a better solution for you, in fact it is about the closest thing to the original Picnik as you can get.

I thoroughly recommend, in fact I can’t really see all that many differences. For the time being they don’t have the college and store images features but it will be coming soon. Also all features are free with no need to sign up, yet there are indications this will be necessary to access premium features in the future. I have been bouncing all over the room having found this, it really does make up for Picnik going.

Give it a try, I’d love to know what you think!

Company Style Blogger Awards: The Event

We had a hell of a ball at the Company Awards, it was a nice and somewhat rare chance for all of us bloggers to get together and have have time to chat – nope fashion week doesn’t count as we are all working and┬á rushing around.

Selina, Florrie; Margaret and Gemma


Charlotte, Akeela, Margaret, Fleur

Jen, Selina, Florrie

Akeela and Fi

The Company team

We might win…

We might not. We conceded that far more categories were needed in the awards especially a Blogger with the Best Boobs: winner Helga and a Blogger who is just generally Fabulous: winner Vix!

Charlotte’s hand made hat and clutch are made from old records, I was amazed listening to how she makes them.

A chance to see New Looks Spring/Summer collection, lots of pretty pastels and vibrant prints. I fell in love with a pair of printed trousers from their Limited Collection and would love to pair them with the snakeskin print heels you can see above.  There was also make overs by Gemma Kid Beauty and lovely canapes and cocktails.

You can see lots more photo’s from the event over on the Company site including┬áBlogger Style and all The Winners. Thanks Company for such a fun night!

How to Earn Money from Fashion Blogging

How do I get paid for blogging? How can blogging be my job? How can I get free stuff?

These are question I get asked all the time. The truth is that there is no easy answer. If you are starting a blog because you think it will get you lots of free clothes then you are wasting your time. Yes, some bloggers do get sent ÔÇÿfree stuffÔÇÖ but it actually really isnÔÇÖt free. It is usually in exchange for work on their part, it may be a review post about the product which takes time to test the product, photograph it and then write the post. The you have to consider that some bloggers blog as their full time job and whilst a free bag may be very nice, it certainly doesnÔÇÖt pay the bills.

As for the other questions, how do you get paid for blogging? Well this is possible, but again it usually comes naturally once a blog has been established, it gets noticed and brands may want to work with it.

In the years I have been blogging I have been fortunate enough to have entered into some wonderful relationships with brands and their PRÔÇÖs. Working with brands can be a fun and beneficial opportunity for both parties. The brands can gain exposure or links and in return the blogger can earn a fee or some other form of compensation. I have worked with some big names and some smaller ones; I have done product reviews and sponsored posts. One of the things I am sure all the brands I have worked with would tell you is that I am no push over. Fortunately most brands that approach bloggers are respectful and genuine. There will however some who are not. I guess the same can be said for the bloggers too.

The first thing you need to think about before hand is what you seek to gain from the working relationship. The brand will be looking to gain exposure, through featuring their products or their site links. But what do you want? Money, free stuff, experience? There are few main ways you can interact with brands.
1. Product reviews: This is where the brand with send the blogger an item such as clothing or make-up, in exchange for keeping the product the blogger will write them a review on their site.
2. Sponsored posts: This can be anything from inserting a website link with a specified key word, to writing a feature on the brand. The details will be down to the individuals.
3. Brand ambassadors: Similar to celebrities being seen in a designerÔÇÖs item, some brands will loan out clothes for the blogger to wear and feature on their blog. The blogger may be paid a fee, get to keep the clothes or simply take the opportunity to lend items.
4. Exposure/ experience: Some brands will approach bloggers to trial ideas. For example they may invite the blogger to carry out some styling work or interview them on their hottest tips for the season. Then both the brand and the blogger will have something to use as content on their sites. Again this can be done for a fee, but really depends upon the terms you both feel appropriate.
5. Advertisements: Either in the form of banner adverts or simple links, you can feature brands in this way around your blog. Some adverts will be paid for monthly for a flat fee, others will be ÔÇÿaffiliateÔÇÖ schemes which generate a fee each time someone clicks through from your site and makes a purchase on the advertiserÔÇÖs site. A note regarding affiliate schemes, if you are only paid a percentage of each sale or a few pence per click you really need to consider your traffic. If you donÔÇÖt have very high traffic volumes affiliate schemes are generally not going to be advantageous to you. The banners that come with them also take up a lot of valuable retail space on your blog which will put off paying advertisers and can swamp your blog. What the schemes often donÔÇÖt tell you is that you will need to put a lot of effort into promoting their brand to get customers to click through to their site and then go on to purchase- without returning the product later either. You can end up pushing the brands through many posts too, perhaps focusing on high commission products. This is what a lot of the ÔÇÿbig bloggersÔÇÖ are now doing and it can be putting your readers off your blog. In fact this whole topic could take up an entire page so if you have questions let me know and I can write more on this.

You should also consider if you actually want to work with brands at all. Many bloggers prefer not to, they like to keep their blog personal. Some will dabble in the odd product review and others like to work with as many brands as possible. Take a look at some of your favourite blogs for examples and decide what you would like to try. DonÔÇÖt worry if you try it and decide it is not for you; so long as you start out with small steps (donÔÇÖt sign up for something long term until you are sure). Perhaps try out a product review first and see how you feel.
Once you have decided if you would like to work with brands and in what manner, you then need to work out for yourself a few ground rules. For me this was fairly simple, I will only work with brands I personally like and would buy from, shop with etc in real life. I will only work with brands whose company policies I respect. I will only write a post/ provide links that my readers will enjoy. I will not lower my fees. In return I stand by the fact that what I deliver will be of the utmost quality and always meet deadline.

Tips For Bloggers
ÔÇó Respect the opportunity ÔÇô many bloggers have no experience working with brands. In fact many have no experience of the working world. I have worked in advertising so I have a good advantage in dealing with this kind of thing, however it can be daunting if you have not. The main thing to remember is that if you decide to accept an opportunity to work with a brand, you are taking on a job. Think of it like a job in an actual company and be in the right frame of mind. Be professional, meet all the agreed requirements and meet them ON TIME. There is nothing worse that tardiness. Do not expect to be sent free stuff and not have to recompense the company who sent it in some way. If you aren’t going to blog about it, send them a courtesty email to say why and offer to return it.
ÔÇó DonÔÇÖt be intimidated ÔÇô I know sometimes it can be intimidating talking business but always consider your own needs. If it is a brand you do not think fits well with your blog ethos then do not be afraid to say no. If you think you are being offered a bad deal, say no.
ÔÇó Stick to your guns ÔÇô if you do not agree to the terms being offered, for example you think you deserve a higher fee for your efforts, then do not back down. Trust your gut instinct; it is better to not enter a deal at all if it is one you feel unsure about. If the brand cannot respect you then it will never be a happy partnership.
ÔÇó Discuss ÔÇô donÔÇÖt be afraid to discuss things with the brands, it maybe the terms of the agreement, it maybe ideas for further projects, it might be something you think would enhance the current collaboration. If you never ask, you will never know.
ÔÇó DonÔÇÖt mither ÔÇô Again this is about respect and boundaries, if you build relationships then opportunities will come. I have heard horror stories of overly pushy bloggers making demands, thinking they are entitled to things. No one is entitled to anything, you have to earn it.
ÔÇó Sell yourself ÔÇô brands would be foolish to think that all blogs and bloggers are the same. Recognise your own qualities and unique selling points. If you have prior experience in work relating to their request such as styling or journalism then mention it. If you have any qualifications mention these too and any similar work you may like to show them to illustrate your talents. Think outside the box, not just of your blogging experiences but those in your everyday life. For example I have a PhD this shows I have excellent writing and research skills, from lecturing I have gained experience teaching and communicating. I have also worked in advertising and brand promotion; I am skilled at writing SEO rich content. Therefore I can assure the brand that I can produce a quality piece of copy and that it will be worth every penny I request. All this is of course on top of the general blog information such as visitor numbers and target audience.
ÔÇó Everyone has to start somewhere ÔÇô saying what I just have above means that I now have a lot of experience, but I had to start somewhere as do us all. When you first start out blogging and working with brands, it may only be something small such as a product review. DonÔÇÖt expect Chanel to come calling after your very first post.

Tips For Brands
ÔÇó Respect the bloggers ÔÇô always address them personally in an email, it is a small thing but it makes a huge difference. If they do not make their name obvious on the blog you can at least address it to the blog title such as ÔÇÿDear Fashion Pearls of WisdomÔÇÖ
ÔÇó DonÔÇÖt be presumptuous ÔÇô many PRÔÇÖs send emails loaded with copy and images and expect the bloggers to post them on their site. Why should they? With no introduction to your company, not even a friendly hello. Blogs are not there solely to promote your company!
ÔÇó DonÔÇÖt expect things for free ÔÇô brand-blogger relationships can be beneficial to both parties but only if there is a mutual respect. As a brand no matter if you are asking for a review of your site / product, for some publicity about your new promotion or a link, this all counts as advertising. Advertising everywhere else be it in glossy magazines, billboards or celebrity endorsements does not come for free ÔÇô so why would you expect it to on a blog? Of course not every payment needs to be a monetary fee, it may be a gift of products or link exchange for example but there must be something in it for both parties to benefit.
ÔÇó Pay on time– there really is no excuse for tardiness. Also if YOU insist on paying via Paypal have the decency to foot the transaction fee.
ÔÇó Be fair and honest ÔÇô many bloggers talk to one another, so if you have approached another blogger to be part of the same campaign it is likely we will find out about it. Please donÔÇÖt pretend you are offering something exclusive if it is not. Also be sure to offer the same ÔÇÿdealÔÇÖ to all the bloggers you approach, if one blogger receives a better deal than another this can create bad feeling towards your brand. Of course this does not apply to higher fees/compensation for high stats/visibility etc that is expected of course.
ÔÇó Understand the blog you are contacting – there is no point spamming the life out of bloggers whoÔÇÖs blog is totally unrelated to your product so be aware of the blogs you are adding to your mailing list.
ÔÇó Research the blog ÔÇô not all blogs and bloggers are the same. Some have been running for two years and others two months, some have high stats and others are still growing, others posts multiple times per day and others once a week. For example you really canÔÇÖt compare the number of comments on a blog who posts everyday to one who posts once a week.

How to ÔÇÿValueÔÇÖ a Blog
This is a tricky one, as there really isnÔÇÖt one easy and quick way to put a value on a blog, you canÔÇÖt rank them like you can a pop single in the charts. Here a few ways:
Statistics ÔÇô Unique visitors per day can give you an idea of how many people the blog is reaching.
Followers ÔÇô At one time the Google Friend Connect counter on blogs indicated its popularity, but this was really only used by those on the Blogger blogging platform (there are many platforms the main three are Blogger, WordPress and TypePad). Other platforms could use the feature however it was never really very proactive. The recently Google announced it was pulling the plug on the feature for all non-Blogger blogs. As a blogger (former Blogger now WordPress) I have to say this is more of a feature used by other bloggers as opposed to non-bloggers (civilians) and it is fairly easy to manipulate. We have all seen bloggers who have only been live for two months with 2,000 followers. Then there is BloglovinÔÇÖ, Twitter and Facebook to consider too.
Comments ÔÇô Similar to followers many people will look to the number of comments to gage popularity. Again this too has its faults, comments can be used by other bloggers to ÔÇÿpimp outÔÇÖ their own blogs, comments such as ÔÇÿlove your blog, follow mine www.blahblahblah.comÔÇÖ some are even rude enough to leave their blog URL five times in a row! A blog could have 100 of these comments but they are all pretty meaningless. There is no interaction with the post, they most likely havenÔÇÖt even read it. So for a brand trying to promote their product there is no value. On the other hand a post with only five comments, all of which are thoughtful and indicate they have not only read but are responding to the post, is very valuable.
Archive ÔÇô Taking a quick look at the blogs archive will give you an idea of how long the blog has been up and running and of the posting frequency. If someone has been posting 2-3 times a week for two years it shows that they are committed.
Post Categories / Tags ÔÇô Again taking the time to see what topics the blog posts most frequently about can be very valuable. You can see if they stick to one format such a Personal Style or if they write multiple formats such as Fashion News, Runway, Beauty etc. This enables you to understand more about the blog and should you be a PR company with numerous clients select the best blogs to tailor to your needs.
Press / Featured in Page ÔÇô This is a page where the blog can showcase any press clippings, features and general achievements. It will help the reader assess how the blog has been perceived in the public eye and media.
About me ÔÇô This is a vital page for every blog. It is an introduction to anyone reading to who you are and what they can expect from your blog. First impressions count and a blog can often be assessed by the latest post on the page, so hook people in with your introduction tell them what they can find on the blog and where to find it.

How much should it cost / should I charge?
I have no idea! Honestly nobody ever gave me a manual with a set rate of fees I should charge / accept. I just had to use common sense. I also found out how much print magazines and Google Ad words cost (well I actually already knew this from my job, but you can easily find out if you want to), I also valued my own time and my own blog. My blog is my baby, it is my achievement. It is mine and mine alone and I get to decide who to share it with. I sat down and seriously thought about how much giving up an entire post was worth to me. I considered my readers and what they would think about reading something written by someone else / seeing a product that I had been given with a motive behind it. I considered how they would feel if they choose to click through to a link I had promoted. What they would think about seeing a banner for a company I was choosing to promote on my site every day, every single time they visited.
So you see deciding that I was going to work with brands at all was a big decision and it certainly didnÔÇÖt make me a millionaire. I knew however my own worth. I knew how much effort I was going to put into the relationships I was building and I knew that I could assure the people I was working with that they would get the very best. If I take on a sponsored post, it will be well written, well researched and delivered on time. So you do need to think about the effort that is going to be involved on your part. You then also have to try and put a monetary value on this and that is the tricky part. I can tell you now that I certainly wonÔÇÖt be writing a sponsored post of 400 words with 3 links for ┬ú20! Neither will I post a video in my side bar for $0.01 per click. I wonÔÇÖt accept banners for sex lines or football coupons for any amount of money.

There are a few pushy agencies that will use standard spiel to try and get you to doubt yourself. Here are some examples, actually lifted from emails I received today:
ÔÇ£The reason for offering this price is that I expect that the article will be posted in the form of a blog post, which would be top news while it is still fresh (a month or so), to be replaced with newer content as time wears on.ÔÇØ Erm yes, you are quite right about that, it is how blogs work. However what they donÔÇÖt mention is that most of these posts they are asking you to publish on your blog are for SEO purposes. It actually doesnÔÇÖt matter to them how far up the top of the site their link is, what is important is that the link is embedded in your site. If you get one of these emails write back and ask them for double at least!
ÔÇ£Do you publish guest posts? I would like to offer you some really great content in exchange for a link to my website which will be placed within anchor text in the authorÔÇÖs by-line.ÔÇØ LetÔÇÖs just read that again. So you are offering me some content. Ok I am meant to see this as valuable, why? I already write my own blog so IÔÇÖm actually not short of content but hey letÔÇÖs see what you are offering in exchange? Oh a link on my blog to your website. Hang on a minute, how is that beneficial to me? ThatÔÇÖs right it isnÔÇÖt, it is not benefiting you what so ever. This is a company who wants to place SEO rich text on your website. If they want to do that they need to pay you, a lot.
ÔÇ£I genuinely thought you might be interested in the concept of the businessÔÇØ ok the word to note here is business. If someone is asking you to do anything that will promote their business it should involve them paying you. Trying to lay on a guilt trip is just not fair. For example I am a huge fan of Vivienne Westwood, huge! But I still wouldnÔÇÖt give her ad space for free. On the other hand if I was asked to promote one of the charities she supports such as Cool Earth then of course I would do that without a fee. The thing is businesses are there to make money, they are making money so why shouldnÔÇÖt you? It is a shame but there are some businesses that will try and get some free promotion from bloggers. I have heard numerous excuses, some may genuinely not ÔÇÿget itÔÇÖ others know full well what they are doing and often employ PR agencies to do it for them on a big scale. Guess what? They will be paying the PR agencies, a lot!

So thatÔÇÖs it, for now at least. Feel free to comment, email, Facebook, Tweet me any questions or if there is anything you would like me to expand on. This goes for both bloggers and brands. I really hope this helps.

I am also setting up something to try and help bloggers who want to work with brands, if you are interested drop me your email to [email protected] with ‘sign up’ in the title. I will get back to you when I have sorted out all the details.

ÔÇ£I’ve written books on advertising. Cheque books.ÔÇØ Alan Sugar.

Street Style: Beautiful Bloggers

I thought it would make a lovely post to gather together all my photo’s of these beautiful fellow bloggers!

Lets play spot the blogger! Can anyone guess them all?? I will add their links later in the week. Ten points to the winner.

Update: From the top – Roz of Clothes, Cameras, Coffee; Eri of Pretty Portobello; Jen of Style East, Roz, Stella of Stella’s Wardrobe; Jill of Street Style London; Susie of Style Bubble; Lawrence of Eclectic Uniform.

NYFW: Blogger on the Runway!

Rebecca Minkoff has always been on the ball with social media, with her daily tweets and blogger breakfast meets ups. Yet it was a total surprise to see blogger Leandra ‘Man Repeller ‘ Medine sauntering down the runway during the showing of her S/S 12 collection in New York. In typical Man Repeller gear including leather braces (suspenders for the USA’ers) over a khaki blouse, leather shorts and chunky gladiator sandals.

I could go all analytical here about the future of bloggers, are they taking over the world etc, but why ruin the moment with seriousness, go Leandra go!